David Banner couldn't believe what he was seeing. The thugs had grabbed the young woman and were trying to pull her away. She kicked one of them and started running down the trail toward David. She was about 100ft away from him when he heard the gunshot. She went down and did not get up. He started toward her but stopped when he saw the three men with guns. He knew he could never win against that. He hid in the bushes and helplessly watched as they picked up the woman and carried her away.
He followed at a distance behind the thugs hoping he could rescue the woman at a later time. He watched as they carried her into the cabin and disappeared behind the closed door. He wasn't sure how bad off the woman was and at first chance wanted to rescue her.
A half hour later the three thugs left in a car. David saw his chance and sneaked into the cabin. The young woman was tied to a chair and had tape over her mouth. She had a cut on her forehead and was still unconscious. He went up to her and checked her eyes. She must have hit her head when she fell in the woods. He felt her pulse and found it strong and steady. Slowly she opened her eyes and looked upon him with pure fear.
"It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm here to set you free." She seemed to calm at this and he pulled the tape off her mouth. He gazed up into her eyes just in time to see fear set in as she looked over his shoulder.
He turned around in time to be punched in the jaw. He flew backwards into the woman, knocking her and the chair over. His vision started clouding as his eyes turned white and his skin started to stretch.
The hulk stood up, as angry as ever. He saw three thugs gazing at him in surprise and horror. He threw them around the room in turn until they scattered out the door.
He turned and saw the woman tied to the chair on the floor. He untied her, swept her into his arms and ran off into the woods.
Jess woke up with a horrible headache. She put her hand to her forehead and waited for the fog to clear. She realized she was moving. With her left arm, she pulled herself up and came face to face with a green chest. She slowly glanced up to the hulking figure that was carrying her. He saw her awaken and shifted her in his arms. The pain was incredible. Her right thigh, just above the knee felt as if it had exploded. She cried out, causing the beast to slow down and look at her.
She reached out for her leg and felt the beasts' hand holding her under her leg. She tried to move his hand away from her leg, but it was made of steal.
"Please," she gasped. "My leg. You're hurting me." She looked up at him and he was glancing down at her with a curious look on his face. She put her hand on his hand under her leg and patted it. "Please move your hand." She asked him.
He stopped moving and placed her on the ground next to a tree stump. As he moved his hand out from under her legs she groaned. A wave of dizziness fell over her and she swayed. The creature kept his hand behind her back to steady her. She closed her eyes against the pain in her leg. She opened them as she heard a strange sound emit from the creature. It was a mixture of surprise and fear.
She looked at him and he looked at her. Then he looked at his left hand and showed it to her. It was covered in blood. She looked down at her leg and saw her jeans pant leg covered in blood. She remembered vaguely being shot. She immediately put a hand on it to stem the bleeding. More dizziness threatened to overcome her. She knew she had to get the bleeding to stop or she would die. She put her head against the creatures' chest to calm herself and noticed he was breathing heavy.
She glanced up at him again and he was looking at her with fear again. She patted his chest. "It's okay. I'll be alright. I just need something to stop the bleeding with." She knew he didn't understand, but she felt the need to tell him anyway. She looked around the forest for anything she could use to stem the flow. Looking back at the creature she realized he was wearing a shredded shirt. That would do.
"Please, can I use your shirt?" She asked. The creature turned his head, looking at her. It was obvious he didn't understand. She put a hand to his shirt. "Your shirt. To stop the bleeding." She pointed to his hand and then to her leg. She patted the shirt and held a piece in her hand. "This, your shirt. To stop the blood."
Slowly realization filled his face. He pulled off his shirt with his left hand and gave it to her. She ripped the shirt into long pieces. She bunched up several and placed them on the wound on her leg. "I need you to hold this." She said. She gently took his left hand and placed it on her leg. "Easy now." She said to him. He looked hesitant, but kept his hand on the fabric. "That's it. Good. Thank you." She said and she grabbed another long piece of fabric. With this fabric she wrapped the bunched up fabric to her leg and tied a knot, making a pressure dressing. She gently lifted his hand off of the fabric as she wrapped it.
This had slowed the bleeding but not stopped it all together. She was getting weaker and she could feel it. She needed to lay flat with her leg above her heart to stop the bleeding. The creature was still supporting her with his hand around her back.
"Let me lay back," she said. She touched his bicep and tried to move his hand out from under her. "I need to lay flat." After a minute of uncertainty, the creature moved his hand out from under her. "That's good." She stated. She lay down and lifted her right leg up onto the tree stump. The creature showed her his bloodied hand again and looked scared. She reached over to get another piece of his shirt. She cleaned off the blood as well as she could. "I'm okay now. I'm fine. It's stopped." She touched her hand to her leg and showed him there was no longer any blood coming out. He was still breathing hard and seemed afraid. She took his left hand in her right hand and started to comfort him. "It's okay. You did good. You saved me." She kept repeating these things over and over as the waves of dizziness swept over her. She looked up at him and saw the look of concern in his eyes. She reached up and touched his cheek with her left hand. "I'm alright. It's okay." Then her hand dropped as she lost consciousness.
The creature reached for the woman's hand after it had fallen from his face. The blood scared him. There was so much of it. He wanted to fix her but didn't know how. He held her hand in both of his, not knowing what else to do. He could hear her mumbling so he knew she was still alive. But he knew she was very sick and was afraid if he moved her she would start to bleed again. He watched her and he started to calm down. He felt his heart rate slow and felt almost tired. It was time for the metamorphosis.
David Banner awoke again to unknown territory. He put his hand to his face to reassure himself it was him and not the great hulking monster that had been described to him time and again. That was when he noticed he was holding a hand. The woman from the cabin was lying on the forest floor. She was flat on her back and her right leg was raised onto a tree stump. She looked very pale. He checked her pulse. It was fast and shallow, a sign of imminent shock. As he looked into her eyes she started to stir.
Jess awoke to someone touching her eyes. Her eyes slowly focused on a dark haired middle-aged man. Thinking back to the cabin incident she immediately backed away from the man, dropping her leg off of the tree stump with a thud. She cried out in pain and her hands went to her leg. "Who are you?" She asked frantically. What had happened?
"It's okay," the stranger said, hands raised. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm here to help."
Jess looked around in confusion. "Where is the other—"she asked, but faltered. What was that thing that had helped her before? Had it been a hallucination?
David looked around. "The other what?" He asked.
"I thought someone else had helped me." She stated timidly.
"This someone else didn't try to hurt you?" He asked.
Jess finally looked up and met his eyes. "No. I think he saved me. He helped me fix my leg."
The man reached over and gently touched her leg. "What happened?"
"I was shot by these thugs. But the other, the other man helped me to stop the bleeding. Then he just took off." She glanced through the woods again, looking for a tinge of light green in the dark green forest. This man would never believe her if she told him the truth.
"Well, it looks like the bleeding has stopped for now but what you really need is a doctor. Do you know your way around these woods? I'm not from around here."
"Yes. Very familiar. I used to come camping with my husband here every year before he died." She looked around for any landmarks. "We're about a mile from where I was camping. I have a first aid kit there. I'm afraid it's five miles to my car. I hiked in here but I don't think I'm up to the hike back just now."
"I would say not." This man had a gentle nature about him. Her distrust was diminishing. "I don't want you to damage your leg anymore. I'll carry you to the camp and we'll figure out what to do from there."
"You can't possibly carry me a mile. I should be fine. I just need to gather my bearings." Jess sat up some more and swayed as a wave of dizziness hit her again. The stranger put an arm around her shoulders to steady her. "I have no problem carrying you." He stated. He gently grabbed her and picked her up into his arms. At her groan, he lessened the pressure on her leg. As she put her arms around him she noticed he wasn't wearing a shirt.
"Why don't you have a shirt on?" She asked. His skin was cool.
"I'm not sure. I was attacked by the same men who attacked you and when I woke up I didn't have a shirt."
Jess looked at him again. "Wait a minute. I think I remember you from the cabin. You tried to rescue me but got attacked by those men."
"Yes. It wasn't a very fair fight. Three against one."
She could see his biceps straining against her weight but knew it was no use saying anything. Instead she asked, "Who are you? And what are you doing in the forest rescuing young maidens?"
He chuckled. "My name is David Banning. I had gotten into town earlier today to see a specialist at the hospital and took a wrong turn into the forest."
Jess frowned. "Are you sick? "
He chuckled again and Jess found it was a pleasant sound. "It's nothing that serious, believe me. Are we still on the right path?" He asked, obviously changing the subject.
They could hear thunder in the distance as they approached Jess's camp. It had been thoroughly ransacked. "Oh no!" Jess exclaimed as she saw the mess. "They've been here! They could come back any time."
David gently set her down on the ground and looked around. "Well, we can't stay here tonight. It's going to be dark pretty soon and very cold. We need to find shelter."
"There's a cave about a half mile from here to the north. I know these woods really well. We could spend the night in the cave and head back to my car in the morning."
"Well let's salvage what we can of yours and take it with us to the cave." He started grabbing everything and putting it in the large duffle. He noticed a large flannel shirt and showed it to Jess. "May I?" He asked.
"Of course! They were my husbands and I like to wear them at night. You must be freezing! Please put in on."
"Thanks," he stated, putting the shirt on. She scooted over and helped him gather her things.
"Well, it looks like they only took my wallet. Which means they know where I live." She looked around, scanning the woods. "I wouldn't be surprised if they came back soon. We'd better hurry."
David looked at her. "Who are these men? And who are you? I don't even know your name."
Jess blushed. "Oh. My name is Jess Stanton. I'll tell you about the men when we get to the cave. The sooner we're there, the better." She looked around until she found what she was looking for. She stood up and put her weight on the walking stick she had just found.
David came up and grabbed her arms. "Hey, you shouldn't be walking on that leg."
"David, you can't carry me and that duffle. I can lean on you for support and use this stick as a cane. I won't put any pressure on the injured leg. That storm is coming in and it's getting dark and those men are probably still hanging around. You don't need me to slow you down by making you carry me."
"No buts", Jess exclaimed adamantly. "Let's go."
With a sigh of defeat, David picked up the bulky duffle, put an arm around Jess and they headed north.
Halfway to the cave it started raining. The ground became wet and slippery. Jess had a hard time not using both legs and still keeping her balance. Once she stumbled on a rock and almost fell, but David helped her stay upright. She was now putting most of her weight on both legs. She was afraid the men would find her and kill her this time. She had put David in danger too and just wanted to get to the cave so she could sleep forever. She was so tired. Her bandage had fallen down around her ankle and she could feel warm blood mixed in with the cold rain. Still she trudged on. The dizziness was coming in stronger waves but she needed to stay conscious until they got to the cave.
"Do you see that grove of trees up ahead?" She asked. She knew her speech was slurring and the dizziness was making her stumble. "It's right behind the trees. There are three large stones and the middle one has a hidden opening just past the tree. There's a path and then we'll be in the cavern, it's fairly large and we can start a fire without worrying about being seen."
She was starting to lose her grip on David. She was so close. She needed to stay awake a little longer.
David seemed to sense her loss of strength. "Jess we're almost there. Stay with me."
She shook her head. "The cave…will protect us….from the rain….and Everything was spinning faster and faster and she could no longer hold on to David's shoulder.
"Jess!" He cried as she stumbled. He dropped the backpack and grabbed her as she went down. In the dark he couldn't tell if she was conscious or not. He grabbed a flashlight from the bag and turned it on.
He looked into her face. "Jess? Jess can you hear me?" She was as white as a sheet and unconscious. Gripping the flashlight, he abandoned the duffle bag and picked up Jess. With the flashlight he was able to find the hidden cave and carry her to the cavern. He set her down gently and examined her leg. It was bleeding profusely. Why had she been so stubborn about walking? He thought. He took off his rain soaked shirt and tied it around her leg. He needed to do more, but he needed to get her warm and get the supplies into the cave.
When he got the supplies into the cave he lit the lantern to get a better look at Jess. Her leg was still bleeding but not as badly as before. The gunshot must have nicked an artery, which was causing her to bleed out. If he didn't do something soon, she would die. He covered her shivering body with a sleeping bag and set out to get wood.
He had a hard time finding dry wood, but there were some dense patches of forest that left the forest floor dry and he was able to find enough wood to start a small fire. When the fire was started, he emptied out the contents of the duffle bag looking for the first aid kit. He was surprised to find a fairly large one with more supplies that would have been needed on a regular camping trip. Who was this woman?
He took the sleeping bag from her and moved it to the fire. Then he gently picked her up and placed her on the sleeping bag. She was soaked and noticeably shivering. She took off her outer shirt, leaving her t-shirt on and then took her shoes and socks off. He rubbed her feet trying to warm her up. He grabbed some scissors from the first aid kit and cut off her jeans just above the wound. The bullet went all the way through but left two holes in her leg for the blood to pour out. The wound started free flowing again and he grabbed several 4x4s from the first aid kit and applied pressure.
As he applied pressure to her wound, David grabbed her wrist and felt her pulse. She was in shock. He needed to stop the bleeding now. He grabbed several more 4x4s and a roll of kerlix. He applied the 4x4s to the wound and wrapped the kerlix around it. When he had tied a knot, he grabbed a stick and twisted the kerlix into a tourniquet. He then set her leg up on the duffle so it was higher than her heart. After rubbing her shoulders and her hands to warm her up, he covered her up in the sleeping bag. Now all he could do was to watch her and pray.
The rain stopped by dawn but still Jess lay unconscious. At times she would mumble, but David couldn't get her to open her eyes. He wanted to go get help, but he needed to stay with her. If he lost his way trying to find help, he wouldn't do her any good. Just before dawn he had removed the tourniquet. He
knew if he left it on much longer there would be tissue damage and she could possibly lose her leg. The bleeding had stopped, but he kept a close eye on it.
Finally at noon she opened her eyes. David lifted her shoulders into his arms. "I need you to drink some water, Jess. We can't have you dehydrated." Jess tried focusing on David but found it impossible. She accepted the cup that David brought to her lips. After two swallows she choked on the liquid. When she stopped choking, he laid her back down and covered her again with the sleeping bag. She seemed to be slowly coming out of her shock, but she had lost a lot of blood.
For several days Jess was in and out of consciousness as her body slowly healed. David left to get firewood and water, but stayed by her side for the most part. When she developed a fever, he crushed aspirin for her to take and cooled her off with a cold wet towel.
When the fever subsided and she was out of the woods, David finally allowed himself to sleep.
Jess woke up terribly thirsty. She sat up and held her head to ward against the wave of dizziness threatening to consume her. The dizziness passed quickly, although she still felt weak. She saw David sleeping across the fire and did not want to wake him. She looked around for some water and only found an empty container. She was very thirsty and was sure she was dehydrated.
Cautiously, Jess crawled out of the sleeping bag. She got to her knees and then tested out her leg. The right leg was neatly bandaged and didn't hurt as much as it had. This David Banning fellow must know something about medicine, she thought.
After fighting another wave of dizziness, Jess took a few steps and felt pretty stable. Leaving David sleeping, she grabbed the water container and set off toward the stream. Not sure how much time had passed since she'd been kidnapped; Jess watched the woods carefully for the men who had kidnapped her.
Jess was at the stream filling the container when she heard the yells. She heard a man yell out "There she is!" and heard the rustling of feet. Suddenly hands were behind her, pulling her away from the stream. She screamed and then turned toward her attacker; hit him with the container of water. He lost his balance and she ran off, screaming for David.
David was dreaming. He was dreaming that Jess was bleeding and he couldn't stop the flow. She was dying in front of him and there was nothing he could do. She kept saying his name over and over,
"David, David, David". He awoke with a start. Had she really called his name? He looked over to her sleeping bag and was surprised to see it empty. He jumped up yelling, "Jess? Jess, where are you?"
As he heard her scream, he ran out of the cave. He saw a man chasing after her before finally tackling her to the ground. He ran toward her in a rage. He had to save her.
"Jess!" He screamed. The man grabbed her and stood her up, keeping her hands behind her back. She saw David and screamed for him.
He ran to her but was stopped by two men. They walked him to Jess and the other man.
"Hey, isn't this the dude we beat up the other day when we first got her?" Asked one thug.
"Yeah, it looks like him, only he disappeared when that monster came after us. Still trying to protect her huh?"
"Leave her alone." David said, trying to sound strong.
"And what are you going to do? You big green friend isn't anywhere to help you." The thug hit David in the back and he fell to the ground.
"David!" Jess screamed. "I'm sorry!" She said to the thugs, "it's me you want! Just let him go! He was just trying to help me."
The man holding Jess jerked her back painfully. "How do we know he wasn't spying on us at the same time you were? Or maybe you told him all about it?"
"No! I've told him nothing! He knows nothing! I didn't know him before I met him that day in the cabin. I swear!"
The man spun her around and punched her in the face. She fell to the ground.
"Jess!" David screamed. "Leave her alone! She's been very sick! She's in no condition—"The man behind him kicked him in the ribs.
"Shut up you. What are you, her doctor?"
The man with Jess grabbed her by the arm harshly pulling her into standing position. David cried out, "No!"
"We got her, men. Get rid of the man. He'll only get in the way."
Jess screamed and tried to get away from her captive. "No! Leave him alone! Please!"
The two men grabbed David and set him on his feet before dragging him toward the stream. Jess tried to fight her captor, but was too weak from being sick. She heard him screaming as the men beat him, then the splash as they threw him in the water. Jess cried out "David!" one more time before crumpling to the ground in a dead faint.
David had been kicked, punched and thrown into the stream. Because of the rain, the water was moving rapidly and he found himself swept up in it. He tried to fight against the current, but the water was too strong. He had to get to Jess. He had to save her. He felt the anger welling up in him and he gave in to his rage.
The monster grabbed hold of the first rock he found and steadied himself. As always was the case, he automatically knew that Jess was in trouble and that he needed to find her. He crawled onto the rock and with superhuman strength, jumped from the rock to the edge of the stream. He was seething with anger. They had Jess.
He ran instinctively toward the men and soon heard their voices. He could also hear Jess screaming, which heightened his rage. They were hurting Jess.
As he approached the men, he let out an inhuman howl. Two of the men were holding Jess by the arms and another man had a gun pointed at her. He knew the gun was a bad thing and had to get it away from the man.
Jess screamed as the man turned and fired upon the beast. She saw the beast stagger backwards before closing in on the man and grabbing his gun. He bent it as if it were plastic and threw it into the woods. Then he grabbed the man who had the gun and tossed him like a child into the stream. He
turned to the men who had Jess and let out a deep growl. The two men tossed Jess aside and ran off. The creature roared at the retreating men once more before going to Jess's aid. He turned Jess over and cradled her in his arms, looking into her face intently. Jess looked up and saw the familiar face of her savior. She put a hand to his face and said, "You saved me again. Thank you." He gave her what she thought was a sideways smile and picked her up.
"No! Wait, put me down! You don't understand. David! David is in the water! We need to go get him!" She tried to get out of his arms but he held tight. He looked confused.
"David," she pleaded. "I have to get to David." She put a hand on his chest and felt something wet. She pulled back and saw blood. They had shot the creature.
Jess looked up at him. "You're hurt." She said. "Put me down so I can help you." She loosened his grip on his hands under her legs and he let her down to the ground. She took his hand and started toward the cave. "Come with me. I can help you." The creature followed her obediently. She was afraid the creature would run off if she went to find David and there was no one else to help him. She said a quick prayer for David and vowed to find him as soon as she took care of the creature.
She got him to the cave and had him sit down. He looked at her curiously as she rifled through the first aid kit. He didn't seem to be in much pain, but Jess wasn't sure where the bullet had gone in to.
She took out some 4x4s and soaked them with hydrogen peroxide. She turned to the creature and looked at the wound. "Now this is going to be a little cold." She said. The creature winced as she touched his wound with the gauze. "It's okay; I just want to see the damage." She looked up into his eyes and saw him staring down at her curiously. Looking back at the wound she could see a piece of metal embedded about a centimeter into the skin. It had gone above the lung and didn't seem to have done any damage internally. She would have to remove the bullet. She couldn't very well take him to the hospital and he could die from the infection if she didn't help him.
She looked up at him. He was like a curious animal, watching her in wonder. She tried to make him understand. "You need help. I have to fix this." She pointed to his chest. "You're hurt. I want to help." He just kept watching her in wonder, but didn't seem to understand. She had seen his rage toward the thugs and knew his power. She hoped he would understand she was trying to help him and not hurt him.
She turned toward the first aid kid and found the suture removal kit. Inside were sterile tweezers that she could use to remove the bullet. She wished she had something to numb the site, but she was limited to the supplies she had bought. She was nervous about doing this, but it was something that had to be done.
She looked into his eyes. "Now, this is going to hurt a little, okay?" She took a deep breath and spread apart the wound with her right hand. With her left hand she put the tweezers into the wound, trying to grasp the bullet. The creature instantly cried out and sharply shoved her away from him. He stood up and growled at her. Having encountered a bear or two in her life she knew the best thing to do was to play dead. She went limp and closed her eyes as the Hulk continued growling at her.
The hulk was furious. The woman had hurt him. His chest hurt and she had made it worse. He pushed her away from him and stood over her, growling. He turned to run off when he noticed the woman wasn't moving. He stopped. He hadn't meant to hurt the woman. Was she okay? He stood there for a moment uncertain. He didn't want the woman to hurt him. She had been nice to him this whole time. But it had hurt. He looked at her limp body in confusion. Had he hurt her?
Tentatively he walked toward the woman. Still she didn't move. He crouched down and touched her shoulder. She didn't move. He turned her over. Her eyes were closed. What had he done? He gathered her in his arms. Why didn't she wake up? He touched her face. Strong emotion gripped him and he could feel the sting of hot tears. He was breathing fast. He had hurt the woman.
The woman opened her eyes and looked at him. She did not have fear in her eyes, only concern for him. She touched his face and said something he couldn't understand. She wiped away a tear that had escaped when he thought he had hurt her. She sounded so gentle though. She said something else and timidly touched the wound. He jumped a little at her touch but her words were soothing. He looked down and saw the blood on his chest and the concern in her eyes. Maybe she wanted to help stop the bleeding. He sat her up and looked at her, touching his chest. He would let her fix him.
Jess sat up slowly, keeping eye contact with the creature. She did not want to incur his wrath again, but she needed to get the bullet out. After a moment, she realized he was going to let her take care of him and gave him a soft smile. She thought she could see a smile on his face. She looked around for the
tweezers that had fallen from her hands when the monster had pushed her away. She stood up and got the tweezers from the floor and put them in the fire for a moment to sterilize them. Once she was finished, she grabbed the tweezers again and turned toward the creature, looking into his face. He looked at her and touched his chest. He was giving her permission.
He groaned as she slid the tweezers into the wound, but did not get angry. Relieved he wasn't going to hurt her, she worked on getting the bullet out. It took a few moments, but she was able to pry the bullet out of the hole. The creature yelled out, but did not flinch. She grabbed the bullet and showed it to him. "See? I just had to get this out." He gazed at her curiously.
Using hydrogen peroxide from the first aid kit she cleaned the wound and dressed it with a 4x4 and some tape. She couldn't do much more with what she had, but she was sure it wouldn't get infected. She patted his shoulder and said, "You did good. You're all better." He had no shirt on and his skin was cold. She reached over, put some wood on the fire and turned back to him. She noticed he was shivering slightly. She wasn't sure, but he might have been a little pale under the green tinge. After all, he had just had a bullet removed from his chest without any anesthetic.
"You need to rest." She touched his shoulder. "You're safe in here. No one will hurt you. Lay down and get warm. You need to heal." He turned his head in what she thought meant I don't understand. She grabbed her sleeping bag and put it around his shoulders. She eased him into lying position by his shoulders, being careful not to touch his injured chest. She cradled him in her arms, returning the favor of the many times he had cradled her in his arms.
She held him close, trying to give him her body heat and she rubbed the blanket around him, trying to warm him up. He continued to look at her curiously as though no one had ever treated him like this. He seemed to enjoy her touch. She stroked his cheek gently and said, "You rest now. I won't let anyone hurt you. You're going to be just fine."
As he closed his eyes she glanced into the fire. Never had she thought she would be holding a green monster in her arms like a baby, trying to heal him from a bullet wound. If she hadn't just been through several days of hell, she would have thought this funny.
Movement from the beast caused her to startle and look back at him. She stared at him in wonder and fear. He was shrinking, if that were possible. His whole body was changing. She held him tighter, not sure what to do. What was happening? She uncovered him and noticed his muscles becoming smaller.
What had she done to him? Was he melting? She'd never taken care of a green monster before. This was new territory for her.
She stared intently in his face. There was no emotion, although he seemed to stare directly at her, unseeing. Afraid he was dying; she covered him up and continued to stroke his face. He had saved her twice, and she couldn't stop whatever was happening to him right now.
Soon his face changed and she gasped. The face was recognizable, except for the white eyes. It was David Banning! Her hand was frozen on his face and she looked at him with fear and wonder. He closed his eyes and reached up to touch her hand on his face. She couldn't move. Where just a minute ago she was cradling a gigantic green monster, now she was cradling the man who had been caring for her for Lord knew how long.
His eyes opened and slowly focused on her. She could only form the words "holy crap".
He looked around then at her again and tried to sit up. He winced and a hand went to his chest. She grabbed his hand and said, "Don't touch. You're hurt. Just lie down and take it easy."
She knew she was speaking to him as if she were talking to the beast, but she didn't know what else to do. No matter what, this man was hurt and needed to rest.
"What happened?" He asked groggily.
"I haven't a clue," Jess said simply. "I left you sleeping here. The thugs found me. You tried to help me and the thugs threw you into the stream. Then this green creature saved me from the thugs but got shot. So I fixed him…er…you I guess. And then, then…then you changed…back…into you." She couldn't help but stare at him in disbelief. If she hadn't seen it with her own eyes, she wouldn't have believed it.
He tried to sit up again, but she pushed him back down into her arms. He flinched with pain and started shivering more. She wrapped him with the blankets more and held him with his back to her in a tight hug so he was facing the fire. "If you go into shock there is no way I can carry you to my car. You need to rest."
He was still shivering uncontrollably. He felt the bandage with his hand. "Did it go all the way through?" He asked.
"What?" Jess asked. She was still in shock at the transformation she had just seen.
"The bullet. Did it pass right through me?"
"Oh no. It got lodged just above your lung. I was able to get it out."
David tried to sit up again but was too weak to fight against Jess. He leaned into her again and with awe said, "That creature let you take the bullet out of him?"
"Well, he fought a bit. But in the end, he let me take it out. I think he finally realized I would not hurt him."
David laid his head against her arm and patted the arm around his shoulder. "You're a brave woman. Thank you."
Jess gave a little laugh. "Well if I had known he would transform into you, I would have waited and did it when it was you. He can be a little scary."
"He didn't hurt you did he?" David asked with trepidation.
Jess remembered how he had smacked her hand away from his chest and pushed her away. He hadn't meant to do that. It was just a knee-jerk reaction. "No, he didn't hurt me." She said quietly.
"Good," David said and Jess could hear the relief in his voice. This was obviously of some concern to him.
Both were quiet, staring into the fire when Jess finally spoke. "What is that thing that you turn into, and why does it happen?"
"I accidentally took an overdose of gamma radiation during an experiment, and now whenever I get angry, I turn into the beast."
Jess was quiet for a moment before saying, "Isn't gamma radiation connected to the sun's rays or something?"
"Yes, but this was a machine. I was trying to figure out if gamma radiation had anything to do with inhuman strength that had been exerted in people during emergencies."
"I guess you proved your hypothesis. You sure have inhuman strength."
David smiled. "That I do."
As Jess held him, David slowly stopped shivering and closed his eyes. She rubbed his shoulders for warmth absently and stared into the fire.
She let out an inward chuckle and David opened his eyes.
"What's so funny?" he asked groggily.
"My mind is still set that you're out there in the stream somewhere. I was just thinking as soon as I got you to fall asleep I was going to go look for David."
"You can put your mind at ease. You've already rescued me." David said, and then fell asleep.
David awoke several hours later. Jess was still holding him although she had moved into a lying position and was sound asleep. He quietly untangled himself from her arms and sat up. He was thirsty and there was no water. He covered her with the blanket and went to find the water pitcher.
He found the pitcher on the ground near the stream. He cleaned it out and looked out over the water as he filled the pitcher with water. It was a cool morning and there was no sign of the thugs anywhere.
He got back to the cave and made some coffee. He then started making pancakes with the batter found in the duffle bag. When everything was done, he poured Jess a cup of coffee and brought it over to her. He turned her over to wake her up and noticed she had a huge, swollen black eye. Scared that he had hurt her when he was the beast, he shook her awake.
"Jess, Jess wake up! What happened to your eye?" He asked urgently.
Jess sat up quickly and looked around dazed. "What?" She asked, groggily.
David put his arms on her shoulders and forced her to look into her eyes. "Your eye. It's all swollen and bruised. Did I do that to you when I was the creature?"
Jess focused on him then put her left hand to her eye. It was indeed swollen. She tried to remember if she had hit it when the creature had pushed her. Then she remembered the scene at the stream. "No, no, not at all. The men. The man that grabbed me, punched me in the face."
David breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank God I didn't hurt you." He touched her eye to examine it. "It'll be swollen for a few days, but you'll be fine. Let me get you a cool compress." As Jess put her hand
down away from her face, something caught David's attention. He took her hand in his and examined her arm. The wrist was bruised with someone's fingerprints. He touched the bruise gently and noticed they were larger fingers than any normal man would have.
He looked at Jess with fear mingled with rage. "What about this? The men couldn't have done this Jess. What did I do to you?"
Jess looked at her wrist in surprise. She remembered the creature grabbing her wrist and pushing her away from him when she tried to take out the bullet. But he didn't mean to hurt her. He didn't know what he was doing. David shook her a little. "It was me wasn't it? I did that to you when I was the creature. Tell me the truth!" He looked at her intently.
She looked up at David with compassion in her eyes. "It was an accident, David. I tried to take out the bullet. He—You—it hurt you and you didn't know what I was doing. "
He covered his face with his hands. "I hurt you." Was all he could say.
"David, it doesn't hurt. It was nothing." She consoled him.
When he looked up at her there were tears in his eyes. He gently took her hand into his, revealing the ugly bruise on her wrist. "I could have broken your wrist. I could have broken you. Don't you understand? This is why I need to get rid of the beast. He is capable of hurting people. I am so sorry, Jess." He put her hand down and turned away.
Jess tentatively put a hand on his shoulders. "David?"
"We need more firewood," David said briskly and walked out of the cave.
Jess didn't know what to do. How could she convince him the beast would no more hurt her than David would? She waited a few minutes and then walked out after David.
David was sitting on a rock by the stream throwing rocks in. She sat down next to him and said nothing. He was quiet for a moment before speaking. "I need to get you out of here today. The sooner you get away from me the better off you will be."
Jess was quiet for a moment. She had never told anyone the details of her husband's death, but she felt it as important to share this with David. She looked out over the water and started speaking, not looking at David.
"It was two years ago this August when my husband Eric was killed in these woods." She felt David's eyes on her but continued to look out over the water.
"We were on the other side of the stream, to the east of here. We had been hiking for a day and a half when we ran into a bear. We startled him and he started to rise up on his back legs. I turned to run but he pushed me with a paw and I was thrown to the ground. I heard my husband yell, "play dead," and I did. I made myself limp and was as quiet as I could be. My husband tried to scare the bear away as it approached me, but it turned on him. Eric was dead within a minute. There was nothing I could do. After he killed Eric, the bear approached me, but I continued to play dead, even though every cell in me was screaming for my husband. The bear sniffed me, decided I wasn't worth it and wandered off. There was nothing I could do. Eric was dead and all I could do was to just hold him. Later, I hiked back to the main road and got help." Jess could hear her voice breaking and cleared her throat.
"When you pushed me away after I tried to get the bullet out I played dead. I wasn't sure what you would do. You were screaming and howling in rage. I thought you would run off, but you didn't. You bent down and gently touched my shoulder and then turned me over. I continued to play dead because I was scared." She finally turned to look at David, now staring intently at her. "You took me in your arms and started crying. You thought you had hurt me. I opened my eyes and had to calm you down. Let you know I was okay. When you saw that I wasn't hurt, you pointed to your chest and let me take the bullet out." She touched David's shoulder lightly. "If you had tried to remove the bullet from me without anesthesia I would have done the same thing. I would have pushed you away. You just didn't know your own strength. You didn't mean to hurt me and when you thought you had, you were so torn up about it. I actually felt bad playing dead." David looked down.
Jess gently touched David's chin and lifted it so he had to look at her. She could see tears glistening in his eyes, threatening to fall. "David, you've saved me several times in the past few days. "
David's voice broke. "And you saved me." His tears fell and she took him in her arms. "One turn deserves another. That's how the human race works. I have no regrets. If that's what it took to get the bullet out then so be it. In the end, you let me help you. That's all that matters." She broke down and they held each other by the side of the stream, both wetting each other's shoulders with tears.
After a few moments, David finally pulled away and looked at her. "You know, I'm still angry with you."
"Why?" Jess asked.
"Why did you take off out there when I was sleeping? You scared me half to death. I didn't know where you were!"
Jess looked down, embarrassed. "I awoke and was thirsty. You looked so tired and I knew you had been caring for me. I didn't want to bother you and decided to get the water myself."
"Well, next time promise me you'll bother me. I don't know where those men are and the sooner we get out of here the better."
"Well, my leg is almost healed thanks to you. Let me chang the dressing on your chest and then we'll see how soon you can travel."
"I'm sure it's fine. It hardly hurts."
Jess stood up. "I'll be the judge of that. Come on."
At the cave, Jess took off the dressing and gasped in surprise. "It's almost closed up and is healing perfectly."
"See what a good doctor you are?" David said, jokingly.
Jess continued to look at the wound in awe. "I'm a nurse thank you, and I've seen my share of bullet wounds from hunting accidents and none of them have looked this good the next day."
"Well, one of the side effects of my green friend is that I heal quickly."
Jess looked up and him and smiled. "Well, I guess he isn't all curse to you then."
David smiled sadly and said nothing. Jess redressed his wound. "There, that should do until we're out of the woods."
"You do good work. How long have you been a nurse?"
"For about ten years. Always loved helping people."
David grabbed her hand and held it. "Well, you're very good at it."
Jess smiled. "Well, I deem you well enough to travel. Up for a five mile hike?"
I am, but let me check your bandage. I want to make sure there's no chance of bleeding on the way to your car."
Jess sat down and put out her leg for David to look at. When she saw the wound she had to ask David, "How long have we been out here? That wound looks pretty good for a bullet hole."
David looked into the air as if calculating. "The best I can figure we'll have been here a week tomorrow."
Jess looked at him in surprise. "I was out of it that long?"
"You'd lost a lot of blood. It took quite some time for you to build it back up. There were a few times I thought I was going to lose you."
"Wow, a doctor as well as a scientist?" Jess asked.
"Only two of my many talents," David said jokingly.
Jess looked seriously at David. "Thank you. You have saved my life time and again out here. I owe you my life."
"A ride to the hospital will do," he said, smiling. He patted her leg and stood up. "Let's eat cold pancakes and coffee and then we'll head out."
It took Jess and David two hours to reach the car near the freeway. Jess was surprised to see the sheriff's truck parked next to hers. As she reached the opening, Sheriff Jensen ran to her and pulled her into a big hug.
"Jess, thank God. We've been looking for you for almost a week."
"Why?" Jess asked. "You all knew I would be out here for a week camping."
"A body washed up about five miles downriver from here. He'd been shot. We wanted to warn you that there was a murderer in the woods. Then yesterday we found the shooter. He said he'd been thrown into the river by a big green creature and drifted three miles downriver when we picked him up." Jess shot a sideways look to David.
The sheriff noticed David for the first time. "Who is this?" he asked, with a rather protective note in his voice.
"Paul, this is David. I witnessed the murder and the gunman saw me. He kidnapped me and David here rescued me. I had been shot and David cared for me until I was well enough to travel back to my car." She beamed at David. Sheriff Jensen put out his hand to David. "Thank God you were there then David. We've been pretty worried about our little Jess." Jess blushed.
"Well, she can take care of herself, that's for sure," David said, smiling at Jess.
Sheriff Jensen pointed to his truck. "Let's get you two to the hospital and checked out. You look pretty downtrodden."
Jess and David smiled and got into the back of the sheriff's truck.
At the hospital, jess and David were given a clean bill of health and released. The deputy had brought Jess's car to the hospital for her. David walked her to her car.
"So what happens now?" Jess asked.
"Tomorrow, they'll see me in the radiology department and see if this experimental treatment of theirs will work. After that, I'm off to the next town."
"Do you have to go?" Jess asked.
"I won't know until the next time I get angry if the treatment works. The beast has already been seen. I can't risk it doing damage in the city."
Jess looked down, unable to say anything. David touched her chin and gently lifted her face so that her eyes met his. "I won't ever forget you, Jess. You've given me a lot of insight into the beast. You tamed him and I don't think many people have done that. Thank you."
Jess smiled, fighting back tears. She gave him a hug. "You let me do for you what I couldn't do for my husband. Thank you so much."
She pulled back and saw his eyes glistening but he was smiling. He kissed her softly and walked away, never to be seen again.